The temples of China are perhaps the best living proof of the country's extensive cultural heritage. In China, worship takes place in tranquil temples. They are symbols of various faiths, including Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist traditions. However, the architecture of these temples is intricate and beautiful.
Temple of Heaven
It's considered one of the most popular temples in China and one of the best-known landmarks in Beijing. It's famous for the Heaven Worship Ceremony hosted there in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Actually, the Temple of Heaven is not a temple but an altar used for praying for people's good fortune. Monks and worshippers can't be found there. It is the most complete imperial sacrificial building complex in existence in China. The architecture is round, while the foundations are square, reflecting the ancient belief that the heavens are round and the earth is square. Generally, visiting the Temple of Heaven starts from the South Gate and proceeds along the central axis. The main architectural structures include the Circular Mound Altar, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, and the Hall of Prayer for a Good Harvest, etc.
Opening hours: 6 am-9 pm
Address: 1 Tiantan E Rd, Dongcheng District, Beijing
Shaolin Temple is characterized by martial arts, since it was the oldest and most famous birthplace of Shaolin kung fu. Martial artists have practiced here daily since the 6th century. It is regarded as the home of Pagoda Forest by UNESCO, which owns over 200 brick and stone pagodas. You can see students practicing kung fu in the training center when you visit here. There are three highlights: martial arts performances, the old architecture, and the Forest of Pagodas. There are other ancient religious sites near Shaolin Temple: a Confucian academy called Songyang Academy and an old observatory, Gaocheng Astronomical Observatory, used for observing the movement of the sun and stars to measure time.
Opening hours: 8 am-5 pm
Address: Dengfeng, Zhengzhou, Henan
The ancient Jokhang Temple in Tibet attracts lots of Buddhist pilgrims. Visitors come to Tibet mainly for two reasons: to appreciate the fascinating alpine scenery and visit Tibetan religious sites. It was built to house Buddhist statues brought as dowries by the two brides of the Tang Dynasty, which dates back to the year 652. These statues combine traditional Tibetan, Nepalese, and Indian styles. Jokhang Temple has four-story timbers and a golden top. There are lines of votive lights in the eastern yard along the path to the main hall. From the yard, you can climb to the second floor to get a full view of Potala Palace. The main hall has over 1,300 years of history and is the oldest shrine in the complex. There are two huge statues placed on both sides of the hall.
Opening hours: 7 am-6 pm
Address: Barkhor Street, Chengguan District, Lhasa, Tibet
Nanshan Temple is located in the South Sea of Sanya, Hainan Province. There is a 350-foot-tall glimmering white statue, Guanyin of Nanshan, placed in the center of this temple. Besides, there is the world's largest gold and jade Buddha statue, "The Gold and Jade Guanyin Bodhisattva Statue" nearby. Its main entrance is a plaza, surrounded by gorgeous white spires along the walkway into the sea. A stunning pond and a cluster of trees are on each side of the walkway. It's well-known for a saying: "Good fortune is as much as the East Sea; longevity is as high as Nanshan." Most visitors come here for its famous religious background and its beautiful scenery. This temple is characterized by being surrounded by white-sand beaches and turquoise waters. You can get spiritual comfort and enjoy the harmony of nature here.
Opening hours: 8 am-5 pm
Address: Nanshan Village, Yazhou District, Sanya City, Hainan
Confucius is well known in China as a great philosopher, educator, and politician. The temple was built to commemorate Confucius. Besides the temple, the cemetery and family mansion of Confucius are located at Qufu in Shandong province as well. Inside the hall of the temple stands a large statue of Confucius. The temple is enclosed by large, oblong walls, and shrines, monuments, and pavilions are inside the enclosure. It now covers 14 hectares, includes 104 buildings, and houses over 1,000 stelae such as Han stone reliefs and stone dragon carvings. This temple is the prototype and model of all the distributed Confucius temples. The layout of Confucius Temple is according to the ideas of Confucianism. Confucianism not only has a profound influence on some other countries but is an essential part of the cultural heritage of mankind.
Opening hours: 8 am-5 pm
Address: Qufu City, Shandong Province
It used to be the residence of Emperor Yongzheng, then was converted to a lamasery in 1744, also called Yonghe Lamasery. Lama Temple owns gorgeous frescoes, archways, a 60-foot Buddha in Tibetan form, and other glittering ornaments. It's located in the bustling district of Beijing. It contains beautiful statues, such as an 18-meter statue of Maitreya Buddha, which is the tallest wooden statue of Maitreya Buddha in the world, according to Guinness records. It's an active monastery of the Tibetan Gelug sect, where monks and locals pray. Walking along the central axis from north to south, you can see six grand halls, seven courtyards, and the side buildings on both sides of the central axis.
Opening hours: 9 am-4 pm
Address: Yonghegong Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing
White Horse Temple
It's said that White Horse Temple, with over 1900 years of history, is the oldest Buddhist temple in China. There are many folklores and tales about this temple. It's made up of five halls and full of ancient statues, including the famous jade statue of Sakyamuni Buddha, and the temple keeps the tombs of the Indian monks as well. There are many "firsts": the first ancient pagoda, Qiyun pagoda; the first Chinese Buddhist scriptures stored; the first Indian monk lived. A number of precious Buddhist architecture and statues are preserved within this temple, mainly in the Hall of the Great Buddha, including Sakyamuni, Wenshu, Samantabhadra, etc. The Cool and Clear Terrace used to be the place to store original sutras, and now it is a courtyard for visitors to rest in. It's full of the fragrance of cassia trees and cypress. It's a serene place, good for contemplation.
Opening hours: 7:30 am-6 pm
Address: Baimasi Town, Luolong District, Luoyang City, Henan Province
It hangs from the cliff on Mt. Hengshan, 75 meters off the ground. Narrow bridges and small corridors connect each place. This layout makes this temple an architectural wonder. This construction has withstood the test of time, and it ranks in Time's list of the top 10 most precarious buildings in the world. It's the only temple where three prominent religions are practiced: Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. One highlight of this temple is the Buddhist prayer houses, which present the sculptures of Sakyamuni, Confucius, and Laotzu in the North Pavilion. And the South Pavilion holds the largest hall and the tallest sculpture. Moreover, there are more than 80 sculptures displayed in 40 halls. The path snakes its way to the entrance, and it's safe to shuffle orderly along the path to take photos and appreciate the views.
Opening hours: 8 am-6 pm in summer & 8:30 am-5:30 pm in winter
Address: Hunyuan County, Datong, Shanxi Province
Lingyin Temple, literally "Temple of the Soul's Retreat", is located in Hangzhou, where the famous West Lake sets. The beautiful scenery, ornate grottoes, and nearby Feilai Feng Scenic Area attract visitors. Feilai Feng grottoes, a cave houses well-preserved Buddhist rock carvings. There is also a tablet that Emperor Kangxi wrote during the Qing Dynasty and Buddhist scriptures and teachings. Once entering the hall, you can see the delicately painted ceiling, which features phoenixes and dragons. Maitreya, a laughing Buddha with a huge belly, is surrounded by the Four Heavenly Kings. Passing the hall and the courtyard, you enter the Da Xiong Bao Dian.
Opening hours: 7:30 am-6 pm
Address: Lingyin Road, Xihu District, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province
It's also called the Ten Thousand-Year Temple in English and is located on Mt. Emei. It's famous for its amazing statue of Buddha Samantabhadra, weighing over 62 tons and standing 8 meters tall, and precious artifacts. The statue was built to commemorate the bodhisattva Puxian, who is believed to be the protector of Mt. Emei. This statue is situated on a white elephant, and it brings good luck if you rub the elephant's hind legs. There are three treasures in this temple: palm-leaf manuscripts; the tooth of Buddha; and the royal seal, which weighs 4 kg. The precious tooth is believed to belong to the Buddha, measuring 1.28 inches and weighing 14.3 pounds. However, scientifically, the tooth has been proven to belong to an ancient elephant from about 200 thousand years ago. Besides, there are several Buddhist halls, including the Hall of Avalokitesvara Buddhisatva, Samantabhra Hall, Maitreya Hall, etc.
Opening hours: 7 am-5:50 pm
Address: Mount Emei, Emeishan City, Sichuan Province
Numerous temples across the country serve as pilgrimage sites for visitors to China. A trip to a Chinese temple can change your perspective on life and provide insight into the local religion and culture. However, there are a few things you should remember when visiting these temples: Turn off the ringer, put the flash away, etc.